The German tactician has blended experience and youth perfectly in his squad.
Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday saw the clash of the titans, as hosts Borussia Dortmund took on Bayern Munich. Prior to the start of the game, only four points separated Hansi Flick and his team at the top of the table from the Black and Yellow at second place – and as a result, the match was expected to be a tense and aggressive game, with a slight advantage handed to the latter thanks to their form from last week and their home advantage.
But that did not matter to Bayern as we found out during the game – and in the 43rd minute, an exquisite chip from Joshua Kimmich sealed the game in their favour. The win also resulted in them extending their lead at the top of the table to seven points, and that has all but confirmed an eighth consecutive Bundesliga title for them.
Bayern Munich’s dominance in Bundesliga has become so commonplace that it is easy to forget that they started the ongoing 2019-20 season on a poor note. They started off with a 2-2 draw against Hertha Berlin, and although they returned to winning ways against Schalke and Mainz, in the next few weeks they drew against RB Leipzig and Augsburg while Eintracht Frankfurt and Hoffenheim defeated them.
Following the 5-1 loss against Frankfurt, Niko Kovac the then-manager parted ways with the club by mutual consent and Hansi Flick, his then-assistant, was named the interim head coach. This was followed by the first Der Klassiker of the season and Bayern started showing signs of a comeback with a brilliant 4-0 win at home. Similar wins against Dusseldorf, Werder Bremen, Freiburg and Wolfsburg resulted in Flick getting a permanent managerial role at the club – and there began the Bavarians’ journey back to the top of the table.
It is also worth mentioning here that Bayern has also been successful in other competitions following Flick’s appointment as boss. The Munich-based outfit reached the semi-finals of the DFB Cup and were also close to booking a berth in the Champions League quarter-finals before all sporting events were suspended due to COVID-19.
The win against Borussia Dortmund has helped the 55-year-old to another club record, as he became only the second manager after Pep Guardiola to win 15 of his opening 18 Bundesliga matches in charge. Against the Black and Yellow, the reigning champions made it seven league wins in a row and 13 victories in their last 14 since losing 2-1 to Borussia Monchengladbach towards the end of last year.
That is one of only two losses for Bayern under Flick, Bayer Leverkusen being the other team that won against them since his appointment at their helm.
With the future looking bright for both Flick and Bayern Munich, we can’t help but feel that the German is slowly building yet another dynasty at the Allianz Arena. And the club’s management also seems to have expressed belief in him, having handed him a three-year contract extension in April.
So what makes Hansi Flick special?
Although Bayern’s dominance in Bundesliga is quite common, the club is not the same these days. The likes of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben played their final games in the iconic red-shirt last season, and replacing them has been a tough task. But using a combination of old-timers and newbies, Flick has been able to restore the club’s status as a superpower not just in Germany but across the whole of Europe as well.
Thomas Muller has had a big say in Bayern’s resurgence under Flick. Before Kovac’s dismissal, the Raumdeuter used to spend more time finding space on the bench than in and around the opposition penalty area. Flick came in and changed that – since November, the 2014 FIFA World Cup winner has played in every competitive match, starting 18 of them. During this time, he also recorded eight goals and 15 assists, making him their third-best player behind only Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski.
Centre-back Jerome Boateng is another beneficiary of the Flick effect. At the start of the season, it seemed as if the 31-year-old had kicked his last ball in a Bayern shirt. But he is back at the heart of one of the stingiest backlines in Europe and is once again regarded as one of the best defenders in the world.
Both players had a good impact in the 1-0 win against BVB. While Muller made frequent inroads into their opponents’ penalty box as expected, Boateng was tasked with the tough assignment of keeping Erling Braut Haaland, Julian Brandt, Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard quiet. The victory and clean sheet is proof that the Bavarians achieved all-round success at the Signal Iduna Park.
Flick has also used youth to his advantage. Alphonso Davies has been a revelation at left-back since David Alaba moved into the centre of defence to compensate for the loss of Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez to injury. Starting every game on the left-hand side of defence under Bayern’s interim boss, the 19-year-old has used his cheetah-like turn of pace and predatory sense of recovery to hit world-class level in a matter of months.
Davies earned rave reviews for his performance against Dortmund as well. His most noteworthy moment from the game happened in the first half, as he denied Haaland a goal with a last-ditch recovering challenge – for which he earned praise from the likes of Romelu Lukaku on Twitter and teammate Muller during the post-match interview.
“Alphonso is a player with a lot of heart and a lot of power. Extreme power,” Muller said, before adding:
“Sometimes he’s not in the best position on the field and the opponent thinks ‘oh, I have time!‘ – and then ‘meep, meep, meep, meep’, the Road Runner comes and steals the ball.”
It’s hard to imagine a Bayern team without him now, but the Canada international is not the only new kid on the block. Joshua Zirkzee. who was promoted to the first team in late November, scored twice from the bench in successive games prior to the winter break, and responded to being chosen to be Lewandowski’s replacement against Hoffenheim on Matchday 24 by marking his full debut with another goal with his first shot.
Overall, with the help of experienced stars like Manuel Neuer, Boateng, Alaba, Muller and Lewandowski and youngsters like Benjamin Pavard, Zirkzee, Davies, Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Kingsley Coman, Gnabry and Michael Cuisance, Hansi Flick seems to be building a new dynasty at Bayern Munich. The right mix of experience and young blood could help them go on and even become the next world-beaters.